The Superstar Paradox: 5 Reasons Overachievers Miss the Mark

How overachievers can stop sabotaging their own success—or level of satisfaction after attaining superstar status

Style Magazine Newswire | 8/5/2019, 12:13 p.m.

By Merilee Kern, MBA

In today’s fast-paced business climate where nothing is certain but rapid-fire change, masses in business and work life have surrendered themselves to “overachievement” in pursuit of career success. Not just ordinary success, but rather the kind that exceeds expectations courtesy of excessive “above and beyond” effort put forth. Some relent to a life of overachievement willingly and enthusiastically as they yearn to earn, while others grievously succumb to a multitude of pressures (both external and self-inflicted) and work themselves to extremes in order to achieve and maintain an enviable stature and lifestyle overall.

Indeed, overachievement is a concept that’s seemingly become a gold standard on how to become a “superstar” in business, career goals and life overall. Just Google search “how to overachieve” and the web will dutifully deliver over 355,000 resources to help propel your prosperity.

While overachievement certainly has it’s tremendous share of virtues, having induced profound innovation, breakthroughs, productivity and abundance for individuals, organizations, industries and economies at large, there’s oft a dark side to this extreme approach to advancement. For some, yes, dreams come true, but throngs of others miss the mark despite best efforts. “This often happens because they’re aiming for achievements instead of at a deeper understanding of themselves and of what they want,” asserts Keren Eldad, a certified business coach and keynote speaker—trusted advisor to industry-leading executives, acclaimed entrepreneurs and premier organizations like Beyond Capital, Luxxotica, Van Cleef & Arpels, YPO, LVMH and IWC.

“It’s a silent story shared by many who present a happy, accomplished and enviable image: one of putting on pretenses and internally writhing with angst and anxiety, of never having enough, of insecurity, doubt and dissatisfaction—a state I have coined the ‘Superstar Paradox,’” Eldad says. “The paradox is when pursuing the illusory things we think we want actually produces undesirable results like strain to keep up low self-worth and general unhappiness—and those consequences actually impede our ability to attain what we want. It can become an exhausting and hugely debilitating vicious circle.”

According to Eldad, the Superstar Paradox is a tough condition to solve because there’s one major, difficult hurdle to get past: admitting there’s a problem. “This requires relinquishing our main armor: that we know everything; that we have things ‘figured out,’” she says. “The key lies in accepting that ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’ and developing the courage and means to swap illusory happiness for a bona fide pursuit of wisdom that can bring true fulfillment, power and possibility.”

That’s easier said than done, of course, and as daunting and even enigmatic as it might seem, taking that proactive first step is critical. So, in the spirit of “starting somewhere,” Eldad offers the five foundational insights below to help ensure some of your overachievement behaviors or mindsets won’t actually be undermining your success—or your level of life satisfaction even after you’ve actually realized superstar status.

● Reframe your success story. Overachievers often believe that success only comes from power, money or status. Yes, those things are important benchmarks for career measurement, but being successful in life overall should be the true Holy Grail. So, if you are a C-suite executive, or aspire to be, but are riddled with anxiety, stress, pain and dissatisfaction–with relationships suffering in that wake–it’s evident that money and status isn’t proving as worthwhile as it can and should be. To initiate needed change, be brave enough to reframe your personal story, from cover to cover. Life isn’t meant to be one-dimensional or even work-centered, so actually sit down and map out what you would hope for each facet of your life to look like if it were a true success. Sure, start with career goals to get the juices flowing, as that might come most easily, but then do separate exercises for as many other areas of your life that you can break down. This can include marriage, children, extended family, friendships, professional networks, social media/networking, investments, travel, physical fitness, self-care/beauty, fashion and style, transportation, entertainment, hobbies and passions and so on. Life is abundant. You’ll soon see that life fulfillment means—and needs—so much more than what happens on the work front. It can be a means to an end, but there’s much in between. Once you start mapping it all out, you might come to the realization that you’ve been missing out on quite a lot in your quest for career glory. Reframe your success story with a more holistic approach—know what success “looks” like for each facet of your one and only life and commit (for real) to get there on all fronts.